How to Tell a Difference Between a Heart Attack and Cardiac Arrest?

Most people confuse heart attack and a sudden cardiac arrest with each other. But these two are different medical conditions that are not the same. The only similarity between these two is that both these are related to the heart. Still, it is necessary to know the difference between a heart attack and cardiac arrest.

A heart attack is when the blood circulation to the heart is disturbed mainly caused by a blood clot. On the other side, cardiac arrest is a natural electrical breakdown in the heart which stops it from beating.

Symptoms of a cardiac arrest

Sudden cardiac arrest is one of the biggest causes of deaths in the US with 365,000 annual cases. Among these 95% of cases are fatal.

As the name describes, in this condition heart suddenly loses the electrical function including breathing and consciousness of a person. Whereas in heart attack, the heart still continues to beat only the blood supply is interrupted.

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A cardiac arrest is very sudden resulting in everybody’s function to fail one after another. If not treated immediately, it can cause damage to brain structure or death within a few minutes. The typical symptoms of a cardiac arrest are;

  •  Unexpected shortness of breath
  • Pain in chest
  • Dizzy feeling
  • Extreme nausea
  • Seizure in limbs

People with the following conditions are at high risk of cardiac arrest.

  • Cardiomyopathy
  • Congenital heart disease
  • Valve-related disease
  • Coronary artery disease

All of these are heart-related conditions that put a person’s health at risk by increasing the abnormalities in function causing cardiac arrest and death, in most cases.

Symptoms of a heart attack

A heart attack is medically described as a myocardial infarction caused by a disturbed blood supply. The biggest reason for this blockage is the presence of plaque-forming a clot inside an artery thus blocking the blood flow. More than 790,000 people in the US experience a heart attack every year and 210,000 of these people have a history of a heart attack before.

A prompt emergency response can save a life in case of a heart attack and it is only risky when unattended for 3 hours or more. The biggest reason of heart attack is the Coronary Artery Disease.

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In case of experiencing a heart attack, the patient is required to get emergency medical care. A delay in this can increase the damage caused to the heart. The most common symptoms of a heart attack include the following.

  • Pain or pressure feeling in the chest
  • Shortness of breath
  • Excessive sweating
  • Feeling tightness
  • Heartburn like feeling
  • Pain that circulates to arm, shoulder, and neck
  • Dizziness

While these two appear the same or sound the same for most people, there is a huge difference between a heart attack and cardiac arrest. But in any case, the medical experts recommend accessing the emergency medical care as soon as possible. The risk of death is higher with cardiac arrest whereas heart attacks are not deadly in most cases.

The aftercare of cardiac arrest and heart attack has to be followed to prevent the recurring attacks. The doctors strictly advise people who have heart disease to arrange timely checkups by a cardiologist. Not only it can help them live a healthy life but also reduce the risk of getting into an emergency condition like a heart attack or cardiac arrest again.

Areeba Hussain

The author is a fulltime medical and healthcare writer. She graduated in Medical Microbiology and Immunology with distinction. Her areas of prime interest are medicine, medical technology, disease awareness, and research analysis. Twitter @Areeba94789300

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